- Associated Press - Saturday, December 20, 2014

Let’s see, if these guys beat those guys, and that team over there loses its game …

Tiebreakers and scenarios. It must be the final two weeks of the NFL schedule.

Indeed, and there are enough possibilities to choke a Bronco or Colt.

We’ll do our best to clarify the picture, but as any pro football fan knows, the league would love for everyone to have a shot at the playoffs in mid-December. And a whole bunch of teams still do, 21 to be exact.

Already in are AFC division winners Denver (West), New England (East) and Indianapolis (South). Arizona owns at least a wild-card spot in the NFC and will take the West title by beating Seattle on Sunday.

Such a win also would ensure the Cardinals have the top record in the conference. Plus, remember this: The Super Bowl will be played at the Cardinals’ stadium.

Of course, a win by the Seahawks would make them even more comfortable should they visit University of Phoenix Stadium again on Feb. 1

“We’re not going into this game thinking we’re unfamiliar with it or it’s going to be something we don’t know how to handle or what’s up. We don’t feel like that at all,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “That comes from years of experience and being through it, and a bunch of young guys now that they’re pretty well-experienced at the timing of these kinds of games.”

Week 16 began with a battle at the bottom, with a shot at the No. 1 overall draft choice in the mix. With that in mind, the Jaguars won by losing. They moved to 3-12 by beating Tennessee 21-13, dropping the Titans to 2-13.

It was the final Thursday night game this season.

Seattle (10-4) at Arizona (11-3)

While Arizona is in, the defending Super Bowl champs, who are beginning to look like the 2013 version on defense, have several ways of earning a playoff berth Sunday. The easiest is by winning and having either the Eagles, Lions or Packers lose.

Seattle protects the ball well with a league-low 12 giveaways, tied with New England. And the Seahawks have gotten healthier and stingier on defense in the past month, winning four straight while allowing a total of 27 points.

The Cardinals are down to third-string quarterback Ryan Lindley, hardly the way anyone wants to approach the Seahawks.

Well, anyone but Cardinals coach Bruce Arians.

“He’s a meticulous preparation guy,” the coach said. “The dynamics between us - I’ve bounced things off him. I trust him as far as his mental makeup to the game.”

Indianapolis (10-4) at Dallas (10-4)

Indy isn’t likely to get a first-round playoff bye, but the Colts would like to cut down on the giveaways - 28, most in the AFC, including 14 lost fumbles - before heading into January.

“If we’re going to get to where we want to get to, take the next step in the playoffs, those type of things, we’ve still got some things obviously to clean up,” coach Chuck Pagano said.

The Cowboys would love to have the comfort zone, slight as it is, that Indy holds. Dallas takes the NFC East with a win and a Philadelphia loss, and gets at least a wild card by winning and seeing the Packers and Lions lose.

Philadelphia (9-5) at Washington (3-11), Saturday

Consecutive defeats to Seattle and Dallas have put the Eagles in a precarious spot. They could win out and not advance at 11-5.

For now, the Eagles must clean up their act when they have the ball.

“It’s something that we need to continue to work on and we need to continue to fix,” coach Chip Kelly said, “because you’re not going to win games when you turn the ball over that many times. You’re giving the other team an opportunity and you’re also not giving yourself an opportunity.”

Denver (11-3) at Cincinnati (9-4-1)

Cincinnati takes the AFC North with a victory and losses by Pittsburgh and Baltimore, making that midseason tie with Carolina helpful. A win even if the Steelers and Ravens do the same secures a wild-card spot for the Bengals.

It won’t be easy given the opponent and how much Denver is playing for. The Broncos must win out and see New England stumble, or else the top seed in the AFC belongs to the Patriots.

Kansas City (8-6) at Pittsburgh (9-5)

For all their ups and downs, the Steelers will make the postseason with a victory. Credit, for once, their offense more than their D: receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le’Veon Bell will get strong All-Pro consideration.

The Chiefs will forever rue their loss to Oakland if they fall short of the playoffs. They can take down the Steelers and Chargers and still not get in.

Baltimore (9-5) at Houston (7-7)

Previously unheralded running back Justin Forsett faces one of his former teams. Forsett was with Houston in 2012 and seldom was used. He now is fifth in the league with 1,128 yards rushing.

Injury-ravaged Houston is down to either a third-string or lower quarterback now that Ryan Fitzpatrick and Ryan Mallett are on injured reserve. That doesn’t bode well against a defense whose pass rush has come alive, particularly Terrell Suggs.

Detroit (10-4) at Chicago (5-9)

While many were looking at the Packers as a team to beat in the NFC, already handing them the North crown, the Lions have been in the background. Yet a Detroit win and Packers loss on Sunday would give the division to the Lions.

Detroit has nine victories against teams with records at or below .500 this season, and the dysfunctional Bears certainly fit such a description.

Green Bay (10-4) at Tampa Bay (2-12)

The Packers need to start showing more on the road; unless they sweep this one and their home game with the Lions, they won’t have home-field advantage in the NFC. They might not get it anyway.

This one shouldn’t be a problem given how poorly the Bucs have performed all season, and how banged-up they are. While the Packers think Super Bowl, the Bucs are thinking No. 1 overall draft pick.

Atlanta (5-9) at New Orleans (6-8)

Call this The Little One in the Big Easy.

If either team wins its final two, it gets the division title - and a home playoff game. The Saints could save themselves, their fans and the NFL itself some embarrassment by doing that and winding up at 8-8. Even so, some team with a winning record will be left out in the NFC.

“It’s a playoff-type mentality,” Falcons QB Matt Ryan said.

Cleveland (7-7) at Carolina (5-8-1)

Johnny Football comes to hoops and NASCAR country, where he has to be better than he was in his starting debut, right?

Johnny Manziel remains behind center for the Browns, whose postseason hopes were smashed by the Bengals last week.

If Carolina wins out and New Orleans loses one of its remaining two games, the Panthers take the division.

San Diego (8-6) at San Francisco (7-7)

The Chargers almost certainly must win out to get into the postseason, and they have won three straight from the Niners. San Francisco won’t be in the playoffs, let along make another NFC title game after three straight trips under Jim Harbaugh.

San Diego QB Philip Rivers is averaging 303.5 yards per game in two outings vs. the Niners with five TDs and no interceptions for a 130.1 rating.

Buffalo (8-6) at Oakland (2-12)

Even though ending their league-high 14-season playoff drought is unlikely, the Bills are formidable. Their defense is ranked fifth and has really come on in recent weeks. The pass rush, led by Mario Williams (13 sacks), has been fearsome.

Oakland is in position to earn the top overall draft pick by losing out. But the Raiders have endangered that with wins in two of their past four games.

New England (11-3) at New York Jets (3-11)

The Patriots can secure AFC home-field advantage with a win and a Denver loss. Considering that New England is 7-0 at home, which would be huge.

New York is playing out the string, but a win over its biggest rival might actually get owner Woody Johnson thinking about keeping Rex Ryan and bringing in some skilled players rather than canning the coach.

Well, maybe not.

Minnesota (6-8) at Miami (7-7)

Miami hasn’t officially been eliminated from the postseason chase, but its chances are virtually nonexistent. Beating the Vikings, who haven’t won in Miami since 1976, is a must.

Minnesota has shown improvement in its first season under coach Mike Zimmer, particularly on defense, his specialty. Considering all the injuries and the Adrian Peterson case, getting to .500 would be a major achievement.

New York Giants (5-9) at St. Louis (6-8)

The only game other than Thursday’s that has no postseason implications.

Thanks to rookie Odell Beckham Jr.’s receiving heroics - the guy is a highlight film all by himself - the Giants actually are entertaining, if disappointing. They have won two straight after seven consecutive flops.

The Rams probably are the best NFL team with a losing record, whatever that is worth.

___

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL


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